laws (books 7 - 12)
change that which is established. The legislator must somehow find a
way of implanting this reverence for antiquity, and I would propose
the following way:-People are apt to fancy, as I was saying before,
that when the plays of children are altered they are merely plays, not
seeing that the most serious and detrimental consequences arise out of
the change; and they readily comply with the child's wishes instead of
deterring him, not considering that these children who make
innovations in their games, when they grow up to be men, will be
different from the last generation of children, and, being
different, will desire a different sort of life, and under the
influence of this desire will want other institutions and laws; and no
one of them reflects that there will follow what I just now called the
greatest of evils to states. Changes in bodily fashions are no such
serious evils, but frequent changes in the praise and censure of
manners are the greatest of evils, and require the utmost prevision.
Cle. To be sure.
Ath. And now do we still hold to our former assertion, that
rhythms and music in general are imitations of good and evil
characters in men? What say you?
Cle. That is the only doctrine which we can admit.
Ath. Must we not, then, try in every possible way to prevent our
youth from even desiring to imitate new modes either in dance or song?
nor must any one be allowed to offer them varieties of pleasures.
Cle. Most true.
Ath. Can any of us imagine a better mode of effecting this object
than that of the Egyptians?
Cle. What is their method?
Ath. To consecrate every sort of dance or melody. First we should
ordain festivals-calculating for the year what they ought to be, and
at what time, and in honour of what Gods, sons of Gods, and heroes
they ought to be celebrated; and, in the next place, what hymns
ought to be sung at the several sacrifices, and with what dances the
particular festival is to be honoured. This has to be arranged at
first by certain persons, and, when arranged, the whole assembly of
the citizens are to offer sacrifices and libations to the Fates and
all the other Gods, and to consecrate the several odes to gods and
heroes: and if any one offers any other hymns or dances to any one
of the Gods, the priests and priestesses, acting in concert with the
guardians of the law, shall, with the sanction of religion and the
law, exclude him, and he who is excluded, if he do not submit, shall
be liable all his life long to have a suit of impiety brought
against him by any one who likes.
Cle. Very good.
Ath. In the consideration of this subject, let us remember what is
due to ourselves.
Cle. To what are you referring?
Ath. I mean that any young man, and much more any old one, when he
sees or hears anything strange or unaccustomed, does not at once run
to embrace the paradox, but he stands considering, like a person who
is at a place where three paths meet, and does not very well know
his way-he may be alone or he may be walking with others, and he
will say to himself and them, "Which is the way?" and will not move
forward until he is satisfied that he is going right. And this is what
we must do in the present instance:-A strange discussion on the
subject of law has arisen, which requires the utmost consideration,
and we should not at our age be too ready to speak about such great
matters, or be confident that we can say anything certain all in a
Cle. Most true.
Ath. Then we will allow time for reflection, and decide when we have
given the subject sufficient consideration. But that we may not be
hindered from completing the natural arrangement of our laws, let us
proceed to the conclusion of them in due order; for very possibly,
if God will, the exposition of them, when completed, may throw light